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Herbold: Legislative Action on Increased Hate Crimes Coming

Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle, South Park), Chair of the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts (CRUEDA) committee, announced the release of a report generated at her request by the Office of City Auditor David Jones, titledReview of Hate Crime Prevention, Response, and Reporting in Seattle: Phase 2 Report.

In 2016 Herbold requested an audit of the City’s handling of hate crimes.  The Phase 1 report focused on the practices and processes the Seattle Police Department (SPD) follows to identify, respond to, and prevent hate crimes. The Phase 2 report, released today, examines prosecuted hate crimes, identifies areas where hate crimes are concentrated, and uses community feedback and best practices to offer ways to strengthen efforts to prevent and respond to hate crimes.

On Tuesday, Herbold will host a discussion in the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts committee about legislation she is sponsoring to respond to the trends identified in the Auditor’s report. The legislation will allow the City Attorney to more easily prosecute misdemeanor hate crime cases, including for race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, mental handicap, physical handicap, and sensory handicap.

“With the divisive rhetoric coming daily from the current administration, a rise in white nationalism, and the cowardly violence of domestic terrorism, it’s not enough to know that these crimes are being committed,” said Herbold.  “Now that we have a better picture of the trends, it’s incumbent on leaders and allies to take action to prevent, respond, investigate and prosecute hate crimes.”

According to the Auditor, reports of hate crimes have increased by almost 400 percent since 2012, from 106 cases in 2012 to 521 cases in 2018. The largest increase in reported hate crimes and incidents is a 427% increase in reporting of hate crimes and incidents motivated by race.

A hate crime is defined as a criminal act, usually involving assault, threat of bodily harm, or property damage, that is motivated by bias based on real or perceived characteristics of the victim.

Selected highlights in the Phase 2 report include, but are not limited to:

  • A dramatic increase in reported hate crimes and incidents in Seattle between 2012 to 2018, including a 524% increase in hate crime assaults, and 427% in hate crimes with a racial bias
  • Hate crimes are concentrated in high traffic areas, in areas of dense demographic diversity, and along the borders of racially diverse neighborhoods; and,
  • Hates crimes are a significant issue, some populations are more vulnerable (such as people with disabilities and the homeless), underreporting is a concern, and more support from the City is needed.

“The Audit notes that increased reports of hate crimes may reflect law enforcement prioritizing hate crimes. Thank you to the Seattle Police Department for their commitment to addressing hate crimes, and to transparently posting data on hate crimes.”

Current city law allows for prosecution of malicious harassment only for homelessness, marital status, political ideology, age, or parental status.

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